The Christian Story is Absurd and Evil

by Luke Muehlhauser on December 19, 2009 in Funny,Video

…and funny, if you can put yourself in the mood:

Previous post:

Next post:

{ 82 comments… read them below or add one }

cartesian December 19, 2009 at 9:37 am

Pretty funny video, and I can see why a smart person like NonStampCollector would be upset by Sunday-school Christianity. (Though the fact that this smart fellow hasn’t gone on to study Christianity more deeply to find answers to his worries may not be so easily excusable.)

I agree that if the Christian story entailed that God wanted to significantly relieve our physical suffering during our time here on Earth, Christianity would sure look false. But ever since Genesis 3, that terrarium-view of Earth has looked pretty implausible. According to Christianity, we’re subject to a curse, we’re being punished. Somehow, Christianity claims, the awful state of the world is our just desert. And we’re not going back to Eden until something drastically changes. (Jesus’ atoning death was the start of that drastic change.)

It may seem unjust for God to let us persist in this miserable world, but you can’t just look at one time-slice of the distribution of goods in order to tell whether it is just or unjust. Rather, you have to look at how the distribution came about. Otherwise, prisons would be radically unjust. But it’s just to deprive people of various goods in prison because of what they’ve done in the past.

So the mere fact that our lot would have been much improved by some solicitous divine intervention doesn’t entail that our lot is unjust (or that God is unjust), just as the mere fact that the lot of prisoners would be much improved by some solicitous intervention on your part (mailing them all your money, say) entails that their lot is unjust (or that you’re unjust).

  (Quote)

Haukur December 19, 2009 at 10:39 am

Cartesian, punishment can be just but collective punishment is generally not seen as just.

  (Quote)

Dave B. December 19, 2009 at 10:59 am

The video DOES effectively lampoon the most simplistic of fundamentalist views of the Bible, God, Jesus, atonement, miracles, etc. There are certainly a lot of dumb ideas deserving of such ridicule.

That said, it is equally simplistic to assume that to effectively expose the foolishness of goofy “christian” ideas somehow makes all Christianity stupid or evil.

Those willing to honestly wrestle with the questions the video raises about Christianity are more likely to find a Christianity worth believing, and a Christianity less easily dismissed.

  (Quote)

lukeprog December 19, 2009 at 11:46 am

Dave,

What Christianity is that, the one that can’t be so easily dismissed? Is it a Christianity in which God did not decide to reveal himself by sending Jesus to perform a few miracles and suffer human sacrifice instead of sending Jesus to teach people basic knowledge that would save billions of lives?

  (Quote)

Donut December 19, 2009 at 2:12 pm

I don’t know which is funnier: that kooky animation or the apologists turning up claiming there’s a less ridiculous more sophisticated version of Christianity that unbelievers have somehow overlooked.

It’s like a shell game with these people. “Tell me which Christianity you reject and then I’ll tell you why that’s not my particular kind of Christianity.”

  (Quote)

Bill Maher December 19, 2009 at 2:23 pm

Luke, I think he means the kind where all of the blatantly ridiculous parts are counted as metaphor and they put evolution between Genesis 1-2. This takes the ability for science to disprove them and they can focus on the love of Jesus.

I could be wrong, but that is what a good bit of my friends that are Christians do.

  (Quote)

ayer December 19, 2009 at 3:17 pm

lukeprog: sending Jesus to teach people basic knowledge that would save billions of lives?

Your position is that instead of solving the most basic of all human problems (sin and death) God should have done nothing about that but instead, say, provided some x-ray machines and surgical techniques to extend average lifespans by 20 years or so? I will take the first solution.

  (Quote)

Derrida December 19, 2009 at 3:41 pm

Your position is that instead of solving the most basic of all human problems (sin and death) God should have done nothing about that but instead, say, provided some x-ray machines and surgical techniques to extend average lifespans by 20 years or so? I will take the first solution.

And there I was under the impression that sin and death were still around! Of course, if God had “solved” death He wouldn’t need to supply us with x-ray machines or up to date surgical info.

  (Quote)

John D December 19, 2009 at 4:00 pm

On a slightly unrelated point. There’s a very impressive poster of bible contradictions over at the Reason Project. Has this been linked to yet?

http://www.reasonproject.org/bibleContra_big.pdf

  (Quote)

one more clay figurine December 19, 2009 at 4:20 pm

Though this video is hilarious, the creator seems to not realise a few things.

Firstly, Jesus promoted the ethical system that he, no doubt, uses today. So, it is not like Jesus came to Earth merely to pull off a few stunts. On a related note, atheists, for the most part, seem to agree with and admire Jesus’ teachings, even if only seeing Him as a great moral teacher; so all was not a waste of time.

Secondly, the video-creator seems to believe that if God truly did come to Earth, then He would give us a push in the right medical and scientific directions. But, to be honest, I think that would be rather condescending. All pride in human achievement would be gone if God came and solved everything for us. We would be reduced to pets. The way I see God (and those that think a bit more deeply about Him) is that He makes us figure things out for ourselves.

As before, I think this video short-changes that Jesus DID actually impart knowledge upon us; namely, ethical and moral knowledge.

What would be the point of extending life-spans if we don’t even know how to live?

  (Quote)

ayer December 19, 2009 at 4:41 pm

ayer:
Your position is that instead of solving the most basic of all human problems (sin and death) God should have done nothing about that but instead, say, provided some x-ray machines and surgical techniques to extend average lifespans by 20 years or so?I will take the first solution.  

You need to read all the way to the end of the book; there’s this little aspect of Christianity called “eschatology.”

  (Quote)

Rich December 19, 2009 at 4:47 pm

one more clay figurine: All pride in human achievement would be gone if God came and solved everything for us.

“God is stern in dealing with the arrogant, but to the humble He shows kindness.” – Proverbs 3:34

“Hatred of God comes from pride. It is contrary to the love of God …” – The Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2094

  (Quote)

Rich December 19, 2009 at 4:48 pm

Also, more great courtiers reply, guys. Well done!

  (Quote)

Bill Maher December 19, 2009 at 5:29 pm

Rich:
“Hatred of God comes from pride. It is contrary to the love of God …” – The Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2094  

is it really a good idea to argue from the authority of an organization that has had to admit they were completely wrong on numerous occasions (supporting the slave trade, the existence of purgatory, on the structure of the solar system, its antisemitic stance, the Spanish inquisition, the Crusades)

one more clay figurine: All pride in human achievement would be gone if God came and solved everything for us.

The video didn’t say solve everything. It simply said get rid of the things in the world that cause terrible famine and misery. I don’t recall them asking God to provide the equation to unify physics, how to make true AI, the secret of warp speed, etc etc.. just to fix plate tectonics so we aren’t killed by Earth quakes and very very basic ethical and scientific knowledge.

  (Quote)

Robert Gressis December 19, 2009 at 5:39 pm

Where was the courtier’s reply? And what’s supposed to be problematic about the courtier’s reply, anyway?

Here’s a criticism of the courtier’s reply, on behalf of the courtier:

“You criticize me for pointing to others’ observations about the fine weaving of the emperor’s garment, and about its shimmering raiment. Your point, sir, is that there is no garment, nor is there a raiment, so others’ remarks upon the delicacy of the sensibility that went into their construction may rightfully be dismissed.

“But sir, I say to you that your eyes are closed, and your head is turned in the wrong direction; moreover, you are not looking at the emperor, but at a crude sketch of him, one that does not include his clothing, at that. And you further have the temerity to criticize me because I tell you where to look and whom to trust to fully appreciate the emperor’s garment. You say my suggestion is not good enough for you. You want me to stretch your lids apart, grasp your head and shove it in the right direction, while you resist and mock me.

“No, sir, I shall not do that. I am a courtier, I am not a slave. And I note as well, that you are first in a line that numbers thousands, each of whom has his head turned away, and each of whom chortles at what he ‘sees’, not knowing he is blind. So even were it the case that I should condescend to meet your outrageous demand (and even should I have the strength to move you, kicking and screaming, in the right direction), the next jester would have missed the display, and would ask me to undertake the same operation yet again. But by that time, I should be exhausted by the sport, and no doubt too weak to endure the same exercise again. And no doubt I should be mocked for my lassitude.

“So you’ll excuse me, sir, if I merely discharge my duty, knowing full well it shall fall on deaf ears and sightless eyes. You may continue to serenade me with your ridicule, but I remain content, knowing not only that the emperor still wears clothes, but that while your head was turned, I spit in your coffee.”

  (Quote)

Rich December 19, 2009 at 6:12 pm

Incredibly the courtier’s response to criticism just reinforces the point of the courtier’s response; unanchored, self-referential vacuity. A byzantine maze of ninth hand arguments that never address the obvious criticism, “the emperor has no clothes” but sidestep offering recursive misdirection and quibbles on interpretation.

  (Quote)

Robert Gressis December 19, 2009 at 6:19 pm

Well, all I was going for is this:

People who shout “courtier’s response!” assume it’s obvious that God doesn’t exist.

If the presupposition is that God doesn’t exist, then of course any attempt to prove otherwise is going to be dismissed as sophistry.

But really what it seems to amount to in practice is atheists not reading any Christian apologetics, epistemology, or philosophy of religion, and then patting themselves on the back for their ignorance.

I regret the last line of the courtier’s reply to criticism, though. Too jokey. Also, fairly gross.

  (Quote)

ayer December 19, 2009 at 6:38 pm

Rich: Also, more great courtiers reply, guys. Well done!  

I had never heard of this “fallacy” so looked it up…Interesting–a defense of speaking out of ignorance. I hope Ray Comfort asserts it the next time he is accused of speaking out of ignorance on evolutionary biology.

  (Quote)

Scott Scheule December 19, 2009 at 6:41 pm

One can see the unfairness of it by imagining the courtier’s reply aimed at his own positions. I imagine an atheist would object if a theist said he didn’t need to be familiar with any atheist arguments to know that they were wrong. We atheists typically find such willful ignorance distressing–yet when it might excuse laziness and ignorance on our own part… it becomes all right?

This is without even getting into the issue that many of the “courtiers’ works” are not, following the metaphor, addressed at aspects of the Emperor’s clothes, but as to whether or not they exist in the first place, which is not something rightly dismissed, even if those clothes do turn out to be missing.

Cheers for this blog for not taking that route.

  (Quote)

Rich December 19, 2009 at 6:58 pm

Maybe you’re not getting it? We see no god. So make a case. Don’t wave your hand and say the case is already made and others have settled the matter. Or that its for lack of looking on our part. It might be lack of wishful thinking, but I look pretty hard. This is the state of apologetics, Crap piled on more crap. Complex?, yes. Answers?, no.

  (Quote)

Rich December 19, 2009 at 7:04 pm

*Off Topic*

I see two contributors using ‘wanderer above the sea of fog’ on their websites.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wanderer_above_the_Sea_of_Fog

I have a print in my office. Why are we all drawn to it?

  (Quote)

ayer December 19, 2009 at 7:24 pm

Rich: Maybe you’re not getting it? We see no god. So make a case. Don’t wave your hand and say the case is already made and others have settled the matter. Or that its for lack of looking on our part. It might be lack of wishful thinking, but I look pretty hard. This is the state of apologetics, Crap piled on more crap. Complex?, yes. Answers?, no.  

My belief in God’s existence is properly basic (http://commonsenseatheism.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/plantinga-is-belief-in-god-properly-basic.pdf), like my belief in other minds and my belief in the past. So you make your case that there is no God.

If your understanding of Christianity is at the level in the video shown above, then you haven’t looked hard enough (just like Comfort hasn’t looked hard enough into evolutionary biology in order to critique it, and should be silent about it until he does).

  (Quote)

Rich December 19, 2009 at 7:32 pm

Reformed epistemology is a non starter. Give a testable demarcation criteria for something to be properly basic. You’ve moved ‘we see no god’ to ‘there is no god’ – a universal negative. I’m not in the business of asserting that. There’s no evidence guys! None!

  (Quote)

Rich December 19, 2009 at 7:35 pm

If you can’t see invisible thread, perhaps you’ve also not looked hard enough. It is after all so very, very thin..

  (Quote)

ayer December 19, 2009 at 7:57 pm

Rich: I’m not in the business of asserting that.

Fine. Then my properly basic belief in God stands, since you have asserted no case against it.

  (Quote)

ayer December 19, 2009 at 7:59 pm

Rich: If you can’t see invisible thread, perhaps you’ve also not looked hard enough. It is after all so very, very thin..  

Yes, I see now–I shouldn’t be so hard on Ray Comfort by asking him to study evolutionary biology before criticizing it. After all, “looking hard” can hurt one’s head.

  (Quote)

Rich December 19, 2009 at 8:20 pm

ayer: Fine. Then my properly basic belief in God stands, since you have asserted no case against it.  (Quote)

But there’s no case for it, either. So invisible elephants are okay to.

  (Quote)

Rich December 19, 2009 at 8:23 pm

ayer: Yes, I see now–I shouldn’t be so hard on Ray Comfort by asking him to study evolutionary biology before criticizing it. After all, “looking hard” can hurt one’s head.  (Quote)

I can go to the lab and show Ray common Long Term Repeats (LTRs) or Endogenized Retro Viruses (ERVs) across the great apes.

We’ll need some scientific apparatus, but its a repeatable, observable, challengeable thing.

What have you got?

  (Quote)

rhys December 19, 2009 at 8:30 pm

Bloody apologetics,

It only exists because the case for Christianity is pure bullshit on its own (apologists just stack on the crap and make it more verbose and intelligent sounding). Yahweh needs defenders because a non-existent being is incapable of defending itself.

Sorry if this seems really ad-hominem but I am so surprised at the lack of shame of some of the Christian replies to this video.

  (Quote)

Rich December 19, 2009 at 8:37 pm

Oh no, rhys, the case has been made. Just not here. And its very complicated. You’ve probably not read the bible enough!

  (Quote)

Justfinethanks December 19, 2009 at 8:50 pm

The basic argument of this video is pretty powerful. Allegedly God came to Earth, and what does he spend his time doing? Talking up “love thy neighbor” platittudes that existed centuries before him, perpetuating antiscientific ideas of the era (like special creation and demon theory of disease), and performing magic tricks for the superstitious illiterates he surrounded himself with.

If instead Jesus said, “Verily, I say unto you, matter and energy are equivalent. Also, the story of Genesis is just metaphor and allegory. The creation of the world and humankind took a hell of a lot longer than that. You’ll see what I mean in a millenia or two. Also, for the love of Jehovah, wash your hands with soap and water before assisting a woman with childbirth. It will decrease infant and mother mortality several fold because it will kill these little life forms that are way smaller than could be seen by the naked eye. Amen,” then Christianity wouldn’t need apologists.

In fact, the idea the Bible is mostly a product of ignorant, pre scientific primitives is properly basic for anyone who can read, and in all my years of reading apologist literature, I have yet to find a defeater for this belief.

  (Quote)

Sly December 19, 2009 at 8:58 pm

ayer:
My belief in God’s existence is properly basic

What if I had a properly basic belief that the Christian God does not exist? (I actually do not, but for arguments sake.)

Where do we go from there?

Why is you belief properly basic?

What differentiates your properly basic belief from any other emotional belief with strong conviction and little evidence? Fancy wording?

Reformed epistemology FTL.

  (Quote)

Rich December 19, 2009 at 9:22 pm

the fact that p and ~p can both be “properly basic” shows this essentialism to be both subjective and self-refuting.

  (Quote)

Scott Scheule December 19, 2009 at 9:40 pm

That just seems a phenomenon that will arise whenever people disagree on anything, not just religion. There are beliefs we take to be properly basic, even as atheists (assuming I understand what properly basic means–I haven’t studied this): the future resembling the past, for example.

But I don’t see what alternative there is to taking some beliefs as basic, even if a person could conceivably disagree with what should be taken as basic.

  (Quote)

cartesian December 19, 2009 at 11:36 pm

Rich: Reformed epistemology is a non starter. Give a testable demarcation criteria for something to be properly basic.

Haha, you might as well have said “Reformed epistemology is a non-starter since we don’t have ‘testable demarcation criteria’ for something to be knowledge.” (Also, btw, “criteria” is plural, so one wouldn’t give A testable demarcation CRITERIA.)

But why think we need an analysis* of a term before it can show up in a theory or an argument? If that’s right, we’re all screwed. Including you, if for example you’ve ever used the term “science” in an argument (heard of the demarcation problem in philosophy of science?). Or the expression “testable demarcation criteria.” Try your best to give me testable demarcation criteria for “testable demarcation criteria.” I’ll be sitting over here, watching you struggle. ;-)

I’d recommend reading Chisholm’s “Problem of the Criterion.” And then the second half of Plantinga’s “Is Belief in God Properly Basic?” since apparently you missed that part of the locus classicus of Reformed Epistemology before you declared it a non-starter. Plantinga deals with your very worry in that 1981 paper. Yep, way back in 1981. You’re a little behind the times. :-/

Start at the first full paragraph on page 48:
http://commonsenseatheism.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/plantinga-is-belief-in-god-properly-basic.pdf
.
.
*I take it by “testable demarcation criteria” you meant at least “analysis,” though it’s often hard to tell what you mean.

  (Quote)

cartesian December 19, 2009 at 11:44 pm

Rich: the fact that p and ~p can both be “properly basic” shows this essentialism to be both subjective and self-refuting.  

Who said that (for any p) p and ~p can both be properly basic? Also, even many epistemologists who don’t think theism is properly basic would still admit that *for some p,* p and ~p can both be properly basic, to different people or to the same person at different times.

Paradigm case of a properly basic belief: there is a computer before me. But if I walked into the kitchen, the negation of that proposition would be properly basic. So there’s one p such that p and ~p can both be properly basic. Yet surely that doesn’t show that anything in the neighborhood is problematically “subjective” or “self-refuting.” So you’re wrong on that.

Anyway, I don’t know why anyone should admit that atheism is properly basic. I certainly don’t feel any pressure to admit that solipsism or belief in the Great Pumpkin is properly basic. There are many clearly non-properly basic beliefs. I think atheism is one of them.

Since you’re a big fan of evidentialism, I expect your next post to include an argument in support of your claim that atheism is properly basic. Best of luck with that.

  (Quote)

cartesian December 19, 2009 at 11:47 pm

Haukur: Cartesian, punishment can be just but collective punishment is generally not seen as just.  

I suppose that collective punishment is just if there is collective guilt. And I think Christianity claims just that.

  (Quote)

Rich December 20, 2009 at 12:52 am

We don’t need a continuum of “properly basic” which is what we’ve got AFAICT. We need a hard line that you can fall either side of. Its noticeable that criteria that aren’t required for something to be “properly basic” – uniformity of nature has almost everyone subscribed. I’m not trying to appeal to popularity as that is fallacious, but isn’t that a component of reformemed epistemology? I have to tip my hat, rather than answer the tough questions coming up with reasons why you don’t have to answer sure makes apologetics easier! And that paragraph is a just a juicy, credulous, “you’ll know it when you see it.” I’m sure the heaven’s gate cultists new it..

cartesian: Since you’re a big fan of evidentialism, I expect your next post to include an argument in support of your claim that atheism is properly basic. Best of luck with that.

Not what I said, chief. I said that p and ~p are could both be properly basic. I don’t actually use the contruct for “proper basicality” because it apears to have no utility outside of shoddy apologetics.

  (Quote)

Mark December 20, 2009 at 2:11 am

The Christian “story” ? Not surprising you would call it that. Much easier to reduce it to fairy tale straw man and then kick it over that way.

When viewing these sorts of indignant videos (there are much better out there, by the way), I can’t help but notice a common thread between them: the atheist’s mind is always focused on darkness, not light. On evil, not good. On death, not life. On sunset, not sunrise.

In general the atheist focuses exclusively on the atrocities of the world when attempting to disprove God. Christopher Hitchens is a master of this. For example, the average atheist will be quick to cite the rape and murder of a young boy named Adam as justification to judge God a “sadistic, apathetic voyeur,” but he will speciously omit the fact that Adam’s father, enraged over his son’s demise, started a program called America’s Most Wanted, that has–to date–landed 1.096 violent felons in prison, many of whom are notorious child rapists.

There is no parity for the atheist. There is only a 0 and not a 1. The forest fire, but not the regrowth. The flood, but not the goodwill that follows that brings people together in ways they never dreamed possible. The atheist will focus on the car wreck, instead of the fact that the car wreck introduced a man to a woman who went on to give birth to a child who would go on to find a cure for, e.g., AIDS.

In the eyes of the average atheist, God does not represent love, He only represents tragedy and atrocity. For that is the only way the atheist can justify his denial of God. If he were to focus on the love, the beauty, the brilliance of the human mind and all of its extraordinary achievements, the marvels of this earth and universe, he would be forced to concede that his beloved science can not account for the human spirit of love.

It’s ironic the South Park airheads of the video question the [ironically crude] drawing of Jesus Christ’s character about the effectiveness of His plan. Looks like the plan worked to me. The Bible is the greatest selling book of all time. Jesus is the most well know man who ever walked the earth. Christians number in the BILLIONS.. even nations that are impoverished where people are starving and suffering the “miserable life” a benevolent God would not have inflicted on them.

But how? How could someone who suffers still love, praise, and worship God with all his heart, as Job did, even in the hour of horrific suffering? The atheist doesn’t care. The atheist doesn’t care how a man who is dirt poor, homeless, and paralyzed could somehow STILL wake up every day and say “Praise the Lord!” He doesn’t care to actually get to know the man he uses to degrade God as an apathetic jerk, he only wishes to USE him for his arguments, which is more abominable than the sum of the crimes he ascribes to God.

The “absurd and evil” thing here is not Christianity, it is the kindergarten-grade SNL sketch that does what every other modern God hater on the planet does: Commands God to explain himself, caricatures him when he doesn’t, then laughs hysterically at the caricature while citing all of the darkness in the world as reason to believe God doesn’t exist.

  (Quote)

Mark December 20, 2009 at 2:31 am

Luke 11:34 “Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are bad, your body also is full of darkness.”

  (Quote)

Sly December 20, 2009 at 2:37 am

Anyway, I don’t know why anyone should admit that atheism is properly basic. I certainly don’t feel any pressure to admit that solipsism or belief in the Great Pumpkin is properly basic. There are many clearly non-properly basic beliefs. I think atheism is one of them.

Maybe you can answer the questions I asked earlier addressed to ayer?

And try this:

I don’t know why anyone should admit that theism is properly basic…

  (Quote)

cl December 20, 2009 at 3:01 am

Well. Hadn’t read here in a month or two. Hopefully this post and thread aren’t indicative of a more large-scale plunge into polemic.

To those who say “there’s no evidence for God,” help me out here: what exactly are you looking for? Do you really expect to be able to run some sort of chemical test to find God? Some say, “regrow an amputee’s arm,” but how could we use that to prove anything other than via appeals to post hoc reasoning?

As I see them typically pan out between (a)theists, the “evidence” discussions are futile.

Mark,

Much of your comment resonated with me, especially the “South Park” and “SNL” parts. The video was just more polemical trash and it was disappointing to see the new low.

  (Quote)

Beelzebub December 20, 2009 at 4:30 am

cl: To those who say “there’s no evidence for God,” help me out here: what exactly are you looking for? Do you really expect to be able to run some sort of chemical test to find God? Some say, “regrow an amputee’s arm,” but how could we use that to prove anything other than via appeals to post hoc reasoning?
As I see them typically pan out between (a)theists, the “evidence” discussions are futile.

God as a being in the Christian sense is a scientific proposition, no matter how many times people trot out NOMA or supernatural waivers to scientific investigation. A being like God should be detectable to science. The fact that fine-tuning and ID are advanced by religious people is extremely suggestive that they actually realize this too, but are hedging their bets by retaining the “God is mysterious and unaddressable by science” card. Everyone knows that if God is really there, he should be evident to each human apprehension and certainly to science. It’s not so much the question “what evidence do you want” as “why isn’t the evidence manifest and undeniable?” Fact, there are unbelievers, and fact: there shouldn’t be if God is real.
The Christian God is manifestly absurd and dismissable as an artifact; the Deist God, not so much. It’s altogether a harding thing to address, but still by the same arguments as above, it will ultimately be ruled out in my opinion.

  (Quote)

ayer December 20, 2009 at 4:36 am

Rich: I can go to the lab and show Ray common Long Term Repeats (LTRs) or Endogenized Retro Viruses (ERVs) across the great apes.

We’ll need some scientific apparatus,

Oops, you’ve slipped into that darn “courtier’s fallacy” thing again–how absurd to expect Comfort to study and do lab work before criticizing evolutionary biology? Why do so, when it’s more fun to just spout off out of ignorance the way Dawkins does about cosmology, theology, philosophy, etc.?

  (Quote)

ayer December 20, 2009 at 4:44 am

Beelzebub: God as a being in the Christian sense is a scientific proposition, no matter how many times people trot out NOMA or supernatural waivers to scientific investigation.

That is one of the more extreme statements of the fallacy of “scientism” (http://carbon.ucdenver.edu/~mryder/scientism_este.html) I have seen.

  (Quote)

Beelzebub December 20, 2009 at 4:55 am

I think it was Sam Harris that said there’s nothing in the Bible that could not have been written by a first century philosopher. Statements like that and the Youtube posted above are certainly cute little thought bombs, but the fact remains that they are cute little bombs that are meant to make you think. Believers may hate them because they are not formal approaches to the argument, vetted in the proper channels, but they’re still evidence against the divine origin of the Bible. That Jesus omitted action that appears to us blatantly negligent is evidence against his divinity. Sorry, but it is. Biblical fixation in the first century is every bit as much evidence against divine scripture as would be lack of motive in a murderer’s diary be evidence against his guilt. The evidence is there; it may not be conclusive evidence; you may not like it; but it’s there.

  (Quote)

Beelzebub December 20, 2009 at 4:57 am

ayer: That is one of the more extreme statements of the fallacy of “scientism”

It may be “scientism” but it’s also held by Victor Stenger, among many others.

  (Quote)

cartesian December 20, 2009 at 7:48 am

Sly: What if I had a properly basic belief that the Christian God does not exist? (I actually do not, but for arguments sake.) Where do we go from there?

Well, I think you’re asking me to suppose the impossible, but also I think I have that ability. So suppose my theism were properly basic, but likewise your atheism. Where would we go from there? I don’t know, I suppose we could both continue having these sorts of arguments, and trying to present defeaters for each other’s beliefs. All that would follow of interest is that we’d both be rational in believing as we do in the absence of defeaters. Nobody thinks that if a belief is properly basic then you can just go on believing come what may.

Why is you belief properly basic?

Well, an account of proper basicality is not required for our purposes, but it is interesting to try to give one. Plantinga’s account (of warrant-basicality) was, if my memory serves, roughly this: A belief is warrant basic just in case it’s not believed on the basis of any other belief, and it’s the product of a properly functioning cognitive faculty, operating in a congenial epistemic environment, according to a design plan successfully aimed at truth.

What differentiates your properly basic belief from any other emotional belief with strong conviction and little evidence? Fancy wording?

Plantinga’s point is that we have a pretheoretical grasp on “properly basic,” or at least an equivalent expression. And, given that grasp, we can make judgments about what sort of beliefs count as properly basic and what don’t. These judgments are the data that any satisfactory analysis of proper basicality must account for. Since these are pretheoretical judgments of a certain kind (what philosophers sometimes call “intuitions”), we don’t have to be able to answer a question like “What *makes* this a case of proper basicality rather than…?” before we can reasonably judge that this is a case of proper basicality.

Take Gettier cases for example. Nearly everyone intuitively judges that Gettier’s Smith does not know. Yet it is awfully hard to say “What *makes* this a case of non-knowledge?” and we don’t yet have an analysis of knowledge.

  (Quote)

cartesian December 20, 2009 at 7:50 am

Rich: We don’t need a continuum of “properly basic” which is what we’ve got AFAICT. We need a hard line that you can fall either side of. Its noticeable that criteria that aren’t required for something to be “properly basic” – uniformity of nature has almost everyone subscribed. I’m not trying to appeal to popularity as that is fallacious, but isn’t that a component of reformemed epistemology? I have to tip my hat, rather than answer the tough questions coming up with reasons why you don’t have to answer sure makes apologetics easier! And that paragraph is a just a juicy, credulous, “you’ll know it when you see it.” I’m sure the heaven’s gate cultists new it..
Not what I said, chief. I said that p and ~p are could both be properly basic. I don’t actually use the contruct for “proper basicality” because it apears to have no utility outside of shoddy apologetics.  

Were you drunk (or very tired) when you wrote this? It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. :-/

  (Quote)

cartesian December 20, 2009 at 7:59 am

Beelzebub: I think it was Sam Harris that said there’s nothing in the Bible that could not have been written by a first century philosopher.

I think we should also keep in mind in this discussion that, while Jesus was fully God, he was also fully man. Some Christian philosophers have taken this to mean that, while Jesus was technically omniscient, he voluntarily ‘gave up access’ to that omniscience. Like some weird Freudian sublimation or something. He “emptied himself” when he became man, as Philippians 2:7 says.

The point is just that, were you to go back in time and ask Jesus “Does E=mc^2?” He may say “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” And that’s perfectly consistent with fully orthodox Christology.

  (Quote)

Briang December 20, 2009 at 9:16 am

Beelzebub:
God as a being in the Christian sense is a scientific proposition, no matter how many times people trot out NOMA or supernatural waivers to scientific investigation.A being like God should be detectable to science.The fact that fine-tuning and ID are advanced by religious people is extremely suggestive that they actually realize this too, but are hedging their bets by retaining the “God is mysterious and unaddressable by science” card.Everyone knows that if God is really there, he should be evident to each human apprehension and certainly to science.It’s not so much the question “what evidence do you want” as “why isn’t the evidence manifest and undeniable?”Fact, there are unbelievers, and fact: there shouldn’t be if God is real.
The Christian God is manifestly absurd and dismissable as an artifact; the Deist God, not so much.It’s altogether a harding thing to address, but still by the same arguments as above, it will ultimately be ruled out in my opinion.  

One need not accept NOMA to ask the question “what evidence do you expect for God.” If one accepts Gould’s NOMA then religion doesn’t have any “facts,” since “facts” fall under science. So I’m not too excited about NOMA, and I don’t think many other Christians are either.

Atheists seem ready with stock answers for all evidence provided for God. In fact it’s difficult to think of evidence that would not fall under the stock answers. examples:

1) It’s a miracle and too improbable, therefore it probably didn’t really happen.

2) god-of-the-gaps — this is just an area science doesn’t know enough about, your trying to plug the gap with God

3) Future evidence will prove you wrong.

The problem isn’t that there’s not good evidence for God, it’s that it’s difficult to imagine what evidence couldn’t be criticized by the same stock answers used against the evidence already given. Now, I’d agree that it would be a little strange that the all powerful God who created the universe couldn’t produce evidence that he existed. Now what I’ve concluded from this is not that God doesn’t exist, but that the atheist’s stock answers are not good objections.

  (Quote)

Briang December 20, 2009 at 9:48 am

Beelzebub:
Everyone knows that if God is really there, he should be evident to each human apprehension and certainly to science..  

I want to additionally comment on this remark. There have be scientists who have tried to look at the question of God from within science. There called creationists. There have also been those, who more modestly, have argued for intelligent design. Intelligent design allows science to decide the question of whether life is designed, and philosophers the question of who did the designing.

Now the response that comes up over and over to these attempts is something like this: God is a perfectly legitimate question for theology and philosophy, it’s just not part of how science is done.

So when we take God into science, we’re told to go back to the philosophy department. But then when we defend God with philosophy we’re asked: but why isn’t there scientific evidence?
All this makes me feel like we’re playing against a stacked deck. Heads I win, tails you lose.

  (Quote)

ayer December 20, 2009 at 10:14 am

Beelzebub: It may be “scientism” but it’s also held by Victor Stenger, among many others.

Yes, Stenger is one of the worst purveyors of that fallacy.

  (Quote)

Rich December 20, 2009 at 12:18 pm

ayer: Oops, you’ve slipped into that darn “courtier’s fallacy” thing again–how absurd to expect Comfort to study and do lab work before criticizing evolutionary biology? Why do so, when it’s more fun to just spout off out of ignorance the way Dawkins does about cosmology, theology, philosophy, etc.?  (Quote)

Oh, no, I’d do it with him. And remember, the experiments terminate in reality, not apologetics or thought experiments.

  (Quote)

Rich December 20, 2009 at 12:29 pm

cartesian: Were you drunk (or very tired) when you wrote this? It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. :-/  (Quote)

Sorry. Read you paper you linked to. He fesses up that propper basicallity is induced. And there he kills it. Here’s why.

2 ways to deal with the problem of induction:

1. Empirical falsficationism (per popper)
2. Bayesian certainty.

1. crushes god belief as it is not subject to disconfirmation
2. I cant see how the math predicated on no divine contact can get you there.

He’s very sloppy with induction – he uses it to mean “I have a feeling”, and that aint logic. This sort of induction gets us ripped off by con men, allows us to make life ending mistakes, etc. It can be shown to be not right for some some of the time. So its no axiomatic starting point for belief.

  (Quote)

Walter December 20, 2009 at 12:48 pm

cartesian:
I think we should also keep in mind in this discussion that, while Jesus was fully God, he was also fully man. Some Christian philosophers have taken this to mean that, while Jesus was technically omniscient, he voluntarily ‘gave up access’ to that omniscience. Like some weird Freudian sublimation or something. He “emptied himself” when he became man, as Philippians 2:7 says.The point is just that, were you to go back in time and ask Jesus “Does E=mc^2?” He may say “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” And that’s perfectly consistent with fully orthodox Christology.  

It is consistent, but who was answering prayers and running the cosmos while God was on earth for thirty something years playing human?

  (Quote)

Sly December 20, 2009 at 1:11 pm

First, thank you for the detailed reply cartesian.

cartesian:
Well, I think you’re asking me to suppose the impossible, but also I think I have that ability. So suppose my theism were properly basic, but likewise your atheism. Where would we go from there? I don’t know, I suppose we could both continue having these sorts of arguments, and trying to present defeaters for each other’s beliefs. All that would follow of interest is that we’d both be rational in believing as we do in the absence of defeaters. Nobody thinks that if a belief is properly basic then you can just go on believing come what may.

So essentially, when someone claims a warrant for properly basic belief they are saying: I do not need any evidence for basic belief X. Correct?

cartesian:
Well, an account of proper basicality is not required for our purposes, but it is interesting to try to give one. Plantinga’s account (of warrant-basicality) was, if my memory serves, roughly this: A belief is warrant basic just in case it’s not believed on the basis of any other belief, and it’s the product of a properly functioning cognitive faculty, operating in a congenial epistemic environment, according to a design plan successfully aimed at truth.

I have some problems with this.

First off, it seems to me that you cannot get to Christianity without having prior beliefs. For example, a belief that your experiences are valid and related to reality comes first, then a belief about the bible (or whatever source informs you of god) comes next, and then you can make a belief about the existence of a christian god.

Therefore Christianity does not fit: *A belief is warrant basic just in case it’s not believed on the basis of any other belief*

Additionally what does: *properly functioning cognitive faculty* constitute. Psychology shows us that we should be wary of our cognitive faculties working as well as we think they do.

The last two qualifiers also needs clarifying.

Even taking these to work, I fail to see how they can establish anything outside of intuition.

cartesian:
Plantinga’s point is that we have a pretheoretical grasp on “properly basic,” or at least an equivalent expression. And, given that grasp, we can make judgments about what sort of beliefs count as properly basic and what don’t. These judgments are the data that any satisfactory analysis of proper basicality must account for. Since these are pretheoretical judgments of a certain kind (what philosophers sometimes call “intuitions”), we don’t have to be able to answer a question like “What *makes* this a case of proper basicality rather than…?” before we can reasonably judge that this is a case of proper basicality.

So it seems to me that any gut feeling intuition can be properly basic.

If reformed epistemology breaks down into gut feelings, then it fails. We have enormous evidence to show that our intuitions are often incorrect, and it is irrational to hold to a belief on intuition alone.

  (Quote)

lukeprog December 20, 2009 at 1:35 pm

ayer,

I generally think of the term “scientism” to refer to the stance that only science can give us knowledge about the world. That is clearly false. But it still might be the case, given its resounding success in the face of all competing paths to knowledge, that science is the best path to knowledge. And if God is said to interact with the natural world, which science studies, then God is, at least in part, a scientific hypothesis. Magnetic fields and quarks are also invisible but are studied by science because they have effects in the natural world. If you think God doesn’t affect the natural world, then your God can’t be studied by science. If he does interact with the natural world, then he can be studied by science.

  (Quote)

ayer December 20, 2009 at 1:52 pm

lukeprog: ayer,I generally think of the term “scientism” to refer to the stance that only science can give us knowledge about the world. That is clearly false. But it still might be the case, given its resounding success in the face of all competing paths to knowledge, that science is the best path to knowledge. And if God is said to interact with the natural world, which science studies, then God is, at least in part, a scientific hypothesis. Magnetic fields and quarks are also invisible but are studied by science because they have effects in the natural world. If you think God doesn’t affect the natural world, then your God can’t be studied by science. If he does interact with the natural world, then he can be studied by science.  

No, God’s interactions with the natural world are those of a supernatural personal agent (i.e., “miracles, defined by Hume as “a transgression of a law of nature by a particular volition of the Deity, or by the interposition of some invisible agent”), and are thus not subject to the scientific method, which relies on experiment, testing, and repeatability:

“Although procedures vary from one field of inquiry to another, identifiable features distinguish scientific inquiry from other methodologies of knowledge. Scientific researchers propose hypotheses as explanations of phenomena, and design experimental studies to test these hypotheses. These steps must be repeatable in order to dependably predict any future results. Theories that encompass wider domains of inquiry may bind many independently-derived hypotheses together in a coherent, supportive structure. This in turn may help form new hypotheses or place groups of hypotheses into context” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method)

Now, I would agree that a miracle can be investigated by historiography (e.g., the resurrection of Jesus)–but that is not the scientific method.

  (Quote)

Rich December 20, 2009 at 2:58 pm

Actually, once the supernatural interacts with the natural world, it is testable. Interaction implies evidence will be left.

  (Quote)

eheffa December 20, 2009 at 3:07 pm

cartesian:
I think we should also keep in mind in this discussion that, while Jesus was fully God, he was also fully man. Some Christian philosophers have taken this to mean that, while Jesus was technically omniscient, he voluntarily ‘gave up access’ to that omniscience. Like some weird Freudian sublimation or something. He “emptied himself” when he became man, as Philippians 2:7 says.The point is just that, were you to go back in time and ask Jesus “Does E=mc^2?” He may say “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” And that’s perfectly consistent with fully orthodox Christology.  

This is all hypothetical BS. It is actually more plausible to suggest that the Jesus you refer to was nothing more than a midrashic literary creation. There is no good evidence that such a famous miracle working celebrity man actually walked the soil of first century Palestine. Why do you suppose that God would have done such a lousy job of documenting this most pivotal event in all of history? Furthermore, this omniscient god was also quite content to leave enough ambiguity in the record that his zealous followers would feel compelled to kill each other for their own peculiar interpretations of his ambiguous “Word”. (Would you rest content knowing that you created this mess & did nothing to prevent it when you supposedly love these same people?)

Can you honestly believe that the perfection-freak god of Christianity would do that poor a job of communicating his intentions?

It is NOT believable because it is a thoroughly flawed, obviously man-made attempt to explain the mysteries of the universe. The fact that, despite all evidence to the contrary, the myth persists and still has its proponents is not testament to its veracity but merely to its clever and perverse appeal to those of us attracted to an exclusive “inside-secret” answer to life.

Let’s just admit it: It’s all bullshit. Now let’s move on to look for the real truth out there.

-evan

  (Quote)

drj December 20, 2009 at 6:28 pm

Oops, you’ve slipped into that darn “courtier’s fallacy” thing again–how absurd to expect Comfort to study and do lab work before criticizing evolutionary biology? Why do so, when it’s more fun to just spout off out of ignorance the way Dawkins does about cosmology, theology, philosophy, etc.?

There is a hell of a lot of difference between the intellectual negligence of Ray Comfort and an atheist who invokes a reasonable Courtiers reply, like Dawkins or even PZ Meyers. Generally the latter knows at least some of the basic relevant facts, and simply wants to avoid getting embroiled in counterproductive, and often pedantic controversies within the field of theology.

If Ray Comfort could at least get some of the most basic and general facts somewhere near the right ballpark – heck, even near the right game – he could be engaged as an honest critic, even if he were not up to speed on the more in depth and possibly controversial topics within the field of biology.

Can you honestly point out anything said by the atheists in question, that compares to such stunning talent for stupidity that Ray Comfort displays? For example, see this quote from Ray Comfort (this isnt even the worst, by a long shot):

If any species came into existence without a mature female present (with complimentary female components), that one male would have remained alone and in time died. The species could not have survived without a female. Why did hundreds of thousands of animals, fish, reptiles and birds (over millions of years) evolve a female partner (that coincidentally matured at just the right time) with each species?

  (Quote)

lukeprog December 20, 2009 at 6:36 pm

ayer,

If God is supposed to work in regular ways, then he could potentially be studied by the natural sciences. But if his actions are less predictable – those of an intentional, personal being, then they could still be studied by the softer sciences, for example psychology. The problem is that when a psychologist looks at the world God supposedly created he must conclude God is a megomaniacal lunatic.

Also, science is fully capable of testing and drawing inferences about one-time events.

  (Quote)

ayer December 20, 2009 at 7:18 pm

Rich: Actually, once the supernatural interacts with the natural world, it is testable. Interaction implies evidence will be left.  

It is not “testable” in the sense of the scientific method, but the evidence is certainly there for use by natural theology–hence the cosmological argument, fine-tuning argument, etc. But such inferences to the best explanation are not part of the “scientific method.”

  (Quote)

ayer December 20, 2009 at 7:35 pm

lukeprog: But if his actions are less predictable – those of an intentional, personal being, then they could still be studied by the softer sciences, for example psychology.

No, psychology is the study of the human mind; that is why we have a whole separate field for the study of God–you know, it called “theology.” And needless to say, to call a being who by definition is that being greater than which nothing can be conceived “megalomaniacal” is what we call a “category mistake.”

lukeprog: Also, science is fully capable of testing and drawing inferences about one-time events.

Well, this is what Craig does with his arguments of natural theology, but he makes no claim to be doing science–are you saying that drawing an inference to God from the cosmological evidence is part of the scientific method, and not analytical philosophy making use of the scientific data?

  (Quote)

Justfinethanks December 20, 2009 at 7:35 pm

lukeprog: science is fully capable of testing and drawing inferences about one-time events.  

This is an excellent point. It’s perfectly scientific to say that a six mile long meteor struck Earth about sixty five million years ago, even though that only happened once. To say that God can’t be accessed by science is to essentially argue that God operates chaotically (since science only deals with things that operate consistently), which is hardly what we would expect from an “unchanging” God.

Ayer: It is not “testable” in the sense of the scientific method, but the evidence is certainly there for use by natural theology–hence the cosmological argument, fine-tuning argument, etc.

This is a BS double standard. If it is possible to use scientific discoveries to determine that God is necessary for this universe, then it is also possible to use science to determine that God is unnecessary.

  (Quote)

ayer December 20, 2009 at 7:37 pm

Rich: Oh, no, I’d do it with him.

Good; you could inform him about biology and he could inform you about the doctrines of Christianity and both of you could produce improved commentary on those respective subjects.

  (Quote)

ayer December 20, 2009 at 7:39 pm

Justfinethanks: This is a BS double standard. If it is possible to use scientific discoveries to determine that God is necessary for this universe, then it is also possible to use science to determine that God is unnecessary.

That’s a remarkable claim, because it means not only is Craig doing science with the arguments of natural theology, but the intelligent design theorists are also doing science because they are using scientific data to draw inferences to a creator. I don’t think you want to go down that road.

  (Quote)

Justfinethanks December 20, 2009 at 7:45 pm

ayer: That’s a remarkable claim, because it means not only is Craig doing science with the arguments of natural theology, but the intelligent design theorists are also doing science because they are using scientific data to draw inferences to a creator.I don’t think you want to go down that road.  

I’m actually fine going down that road. I actually don’t reject Intelligent Design a priori, (i.e. “It invokes the supernatural, therefore its not science.”) I reject it because it’s propenents have yet to come with a scientifically coherent method of design detection. If Dembski, Behe, Meyer, et al. come with something a little better than their current “explanitory filter” I would be happy to reevaluate.

  (Quote)

lukeprog December 20, 2009 at 7:55 pm

ayer,

Actually, I think we might be fully agreeing, just using slightly different words. I think your way of putting it – “analytical philosophy making use of scientific data” – is clearer than the way I was putting it. In either case, I was merely trying to say that scientific data greatly informs the likelihood of their being a particular kind of God who intervenes in nature.

  (Quote)

Justfinethanks December 20, 2009 at 7:59 pm

To further illistrate the point that the supernatural indeed can be accessed by testing, check out this video of James Randi exposing James Hydrick. Hydrick made a supernatural claim, (i.e. that he could move objects using the “forces of nature”), which also happened to be a TESTABLE claim. So James Randi put it to the test, and found that his claim failed.

Would anyone seriously argue that “No, that’s not fair. You can’t put the ‘kung fu power’ in a test tube, so you can’t really test whether or not he can move objects with his mind.” This is absurd.

Theism also makes some supernatural and perfectly testable claims, like “God answers prayer.” But when we put these claims to the test, we are told that the results are meaningless because the supernatural is somehow out of science’s reach. This is equally absurd.

  (Quote)

ayer December 20, 2009 at 8:02 pm

lukeprog: ayer,Actually, I think we might be fully agreeing, just using slightly different words. I think your way of putting it – “analytical philosophy making use of scientific data” – is clearer than the way I was putting it. In either case, I was merely trying to say that scientific data greatly informs the likelihood of their being a particular kind of God who intervenes in nature.  

Great, I have no objection to the way you put it here. My objection was to the earlier comment by another commenter that “God as a being in the Christian sense is a scientific proposition…” God as a being is a philosophical proposition, inferences to which may be both supported and opposed by the scientific data. But God will never be “proved” or “disproved” by the scientific method the way we an “prove” that the Earth is not flat.

  (Quote)

Briang December 20, 2009 at 8:52 pm

lukeprog: Actually, I think we might be fully agreeing, just using slightly different words. I think your way of putting it – “analytical philosophy making use of scientific data” – is clearer than the way I was putting it. In either case, I was merely trying to say that scientific data greatly informs the likelihood of their being a particular kind of God who intervenes in nature.

I think one of the problems with the question: “can God be proven with science?” is that that this can mean so many different things.

First, “science” can mean several different things. In the most broadest sense it means “a critical and systematic attempt at discovering knowledge.” This is my own definition. I’ve seen science used very broadly in print to speak of historical science and theological science. More narrowly it is defined as natural sciences. I’ve even heard it used so narrowly that it only includes experimental sciences (excluding evolutionary biology).

All these examples are purely for linguistic question. How have people used the term? They don’t tell us anything about which one is correct or anything about the philosophy of science.

The second problem is what is meant when someone says that God is not part of science. One could mean that is studied by some other field of expertise. On the other hand, one might mean that it’s unscientific, that science has proven that God does not exist.

One thing I like about William Lane Craig’s approach is that he simply says that there are “good reasons” to believe that God exists. This sidesteps the whole issue of whether science is the only way to obtain knowledge and what science means and all the complexities of these issues. No one could object to believing in something for “good reasons”. No one could is going to argue about the definition of “good reasons.” The only objection one can make is whether the “reasons” he gives are good ones. This keeps the debate focused on the essentials.

  (Quote)

Nick Barrowman December 20, 2009 at 8:57 pm

Luke, you wrote that “science is fully capable of testing and drawing inferences about one-time events.”

I’m not sure what you mean. I don’t think science could be used to draw inferences about a truly one-time (sui generis) event (rather than a single instance of some category of event). I wrote about this a while back.

  (Quote)

Rich December 20, 2009 at 10:39 pm

ayer: It is not “testable” in the sense of the scientific method, but the evidence is certainly there for use by natural theology–hence the cosmological argument, fine-tuning argument, etc. But such inferences to the best explanation are not part of the “scientific method.”  (Quote)

I can think of lots of tests for a global flood 6000 years ago…

  (Quote)

Briang December 20, 2009 at 10:57 pm

Nick Barrowman: Luke, you wrote that “science is fully capable of testing and drawing inferences about one-time events.”

I’m not sure what you mean. I don’t think science could be used to draw inferences about a truly one-time (sui generis) event (rather than a single instance of some category of event). I wrote about this a while back.

What about the big bang?

  (Quote)

lukeprog December 20, 2009 at 11:27 pm

Nick,

That all depends on what you mean by “single instance of some category of event”. Whether you call something sui generis is pretty arbitrary until you give me a technical meaning for the way you’re using the Latin. Even the Resurrection of Jesus would be a single instance of many categories of events – resurrections, miracles, etc.

  (Quote)

Beelzebub December 21, 2009 at 12:53 am

ayer: But God will never be “proved” or “disproved” by the scientific method the way we an “prove” that the Earth is not flat.  

Science is perhaps never going to deliver you truths like mathematical identities of the type 1 equals 1. OTOH I’m not totally sure of this. One day scientific truths may be subject to formal verification, as programs can be in computer science. What science can do is eliminate gaps that are potential repositories for supernatural agency. I don’t foresee that process from ending, and this I’m sure is what people like Steven Weinberg mean when they say that science is eating religion’s lunch. There is no logical reason that science could not identify at least the traces of supernatural events. If ID ever does become a complete science and formulates a convincing theory of complexity and proves beyond a doubt that certain structures could not have evolved, then science may well have identified a supernatural product. There are a lot of “if”s there, which is why science doesn’t take ID seriously. Science hasn’t even begun to give up on addressing problems that the IDers so eagerly want to chalk up to supernaturalism.
To survive as a concept, God will have to become more and more subtle, more and more elusive, unless, that is, science reveals him, or he reveals himself.
Why do I say that science should be able to elucidate God? Well, here I’m following Victor Stenger’s lead. The argument may lack formal correctness, however it does still have a certain punch. If God as creator metaphysically underwrites the entire structure of our universe, why can’t he be examined? You may claim that God is only elucidated on a philosophical plane, however, the universe is quite material, and in fact, it’s not as if God has done his thing and left the stage (like the Deist god). God is still here, actively involved in pulling the strings — and those are material strings. So why isn’t he subject to scientific investigation?

  (Quote)

Nick Barrowman December 21, 2009 at 5:26 am

Briang and Luke,

Thanks for your comments. The Big Bang is a great example, and indeed close to what I think I meant by sui generis. The key difference, however, is that we can draw inferences about the Big Bang by assuming that what we already know about physics (based on countless observations and the theories developed based on those observations) continues to hold. A truly unique event (in the sense I meant) is one that cannot be explained based on what we already know.

  (Quote)

Rich December 21, 2009 at 9:10 am

ayer: Good; you could inform him about biology and he could inform you about the doctrines of Christianity and both of you could produce improved commentary on those respective subjects.  (Quote)

But I can go to the wellspring of observable reality…

  (Quote)

Briang December 21, 2009 at 9:47 am

Justfinethanks: To further illistrate the point that the supernatural indeed can be accessed by testing, check out this video of James Randi exposing James Hydrick.Hydrick made a supernatural claim, (i.e. that he could move objects using the “forces of nature”), which also happened to be a TESTABLE claim. So James Randi put it to the test, and found that his claim failed.Would anyone seriously argue that “No, that’s not fair.You can’t put the ‘kung fu power’ in a test tube, so you can’t really test whether or not he can move objects with his mind.”This is absurd.Theism also makes some supernatural and perfectly testable claims, like “God answers prayer.”But when we put these claims to the test, we are told that the results are meaningless because the supernatural is somehow out of science’s reach. This is equally absurd.  

We may be able to test claims like this. There are numerous accounts of people having prayers answered in specific ways. The problem with the prayer studies that I’ve heard of is that they fail to isolate the control group.

  (Quote)

christian pumpkin story May 12, 2010 at 11:46 pm

thumps up for your article, great post…

  (Quote)

Leave a Comment